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International migration to and from Auckland region: 1996–2013

This article is one of a series which looks into the characteristics of international migration for each New Zealand region. We used June year data for permanent and long-term (PLT) migrants arriving into and departing from Auckland region (Tāmaki Makaurau). Auckland region is referred to as ‘Auckland’ in this article.

In 2013, of those PLT migrants who specified a New Zealand address, almost half were migrating to or from Auckland. Because Auckland’s migration flows make up a big portion of New Zealand’s total migration flows, this article examines international migration to and from Auckland, compared with the flows to and from the rest of New Zealand’s regions combined. These combined regions are referred to as 'the other regions' in this article.

Auckland recorded the highest net gain of migrants from 1996 to 2013 when compared with the other regions in New Zealand, and was 1 of only 4 to record a net gain over this period. Auckland has a higher proportion of overseas-born residents than the other regions – especially migrants from Asia and the Pacific – due to this high net migration.

Topics covered in this article include:

For more general information about all regions and data quality, see An introduction to international migration by region: 1996–2010.

Auckland region at a glance

Auckland region shares its name with Auckland city, New Zealand’s largest urban area. The region encompasses the Auckland metropolitan area, smaller towns, rural areas, and the islands of the Hauraki Gulf. Situated in the northern part of the North Island, Auckland has a temperate and mild climate, with an average minimum temperature of 7⁰C in winter and an average maximum temperature of 24⁰C in summer.

A new Auckland council, established in November 2010, was formed from seven previous territorial authorities – Rodney district, North Shore city, Waitakere city, Auckland city, Manukau city, Papakura district, and part of Franklin district. Other parts of Franklin district were moved into the existing Waikato and Hauraki districts.

Auckland is the most populated of New Zealand’s 16 regions. In 2013, Auckland’s estimated resident population was 1.53 million – 34 percent of the total New Zealand population. The next most populated region was Canterbury, with an estimated resident population of 566,100. Over the past 10 years, Auckland experienced the fastest growth of any New Zealand region. From 2006 to 2013, its population increased by 11 percent, compared with 7 percent for Otago region and 6 percent for Waikato region, the next fastest-growing regions.

Auckland has a younger population than any other region, with 37 percent of people concentrated in the 15–39-year age group, and a median age of 34 years. Nationally, 34 percent of people are aged 15–39 years, and the median age is 37 years.

In 2013, more people were employed in ‘professional, scientific and technical services’ in Auckland than the national average (11 percent, compared with 8 percent for all of New Zealand). More employees were in wholesale trade (8 percent), compared with all of New Zealand (5 percent).

Far fewer people were employed in 'agriculture, forestry and fishing' in Auckland (1 percent) than than for all of New Zealand (6 percent), reflecting the mostly urban nature of the region.

Overseas-born population

In the 2013 Census, 39 percent of the Auckland population was born overseas (up from 37 percent in the 2006 Census). This is much higher than the 18 percent recorded for the other regions in the 2013 Census. The regions with the next-highest proportion of overseas-born people in 2013 were Wellington (25 percent), Nelson (21 percent), and Canterbury (20 percent).

Of the overseas-born population in Auckland, 39 percent were born in Asia, compared with 23 percent in the other regions. Auckland also had more of its overseas-born people from the Pacific (21 percent) than the other regions (9 percent).

In contrast, the proportion of Auckland’s overseas-born from the United Kingdom and Ireland (17 percent) was lower than in the other regions (36 percent).

Total migrant flows

Auckland recorded the highest net gain of migrants from 1996 to 2013 when compared with the other regions in New Zealand, and was 1 of only 4 to record a net gain over this period. Of those who specified a New Zealand address in 2013, almost one-half (48 percent) of PLT arrivals and 42 percent of departures were to and from Auckland. Detailed comparisons with the other regions exclude migrants who did not state a New Zealand address, as many of these people would have settled in Auckland and so may share similar characteristics.

Auckland experienced a decrease in migrant arrivals in 1998 and 1999, a decrease experienced throughout New Zealand. This was followed by increases in the next few years, up to the peak of 41,100 arrivals to Auckland in 2003.

On 2 July 2003, a change to New Zealand immigration policy granted extra points to people applying for residence under the ‘skilled migrant’ category, if they had a relevant job offer outside the Auckland region. Auckland was immediately affected by the new policy, with arrivals decreasing from the 2003 peak to 31,000 in 2005.

In contrast, the other regions experienced a very small dip from the peak of 40,100 arrivals in 2003, to 37,900 in 2005. Arrivals to the other regions then grew to 41,400 in 2009. Migration into Auckland also recovered slightly to reach a peak of 35,300 arrivals in 2009, although still well below the 2003 high.

Figure 1

Graph, PLT arrivals to Auckland and the other regions, year ended June 1996 to 2013.

Departure numbers from Auckland, shown in figure 2 below, followed a similar pattern to the other regions with a peak in 2012. There were 30,300 departures from Auckland and 48,900 from the other regions in 2012.

The lowest number of annual departures from Auckland was recorded in 2003 (19,000), the same year as in the other regions (29,800).

Figure 2

 Graph, PLT departures from Auckland and the other regions, year ended June 1996 to 2013.

Auckland recorded only one annual net loss of migrants in the period from 1996 to 2013 – a loss of 1,200 migrants in 1999. The other regions recorded net losses of migrants for 12 of the 18 years, with the largest net loss also occurring in 1999, as well as in 2000 (each 15,300).

Auckland’s largest net gain of migrants was in 2003 (22,100). The other regions also recorded their highest net gain in 2003 (10,300), a time when high numbers of international students arrived to study in New Zealand. In 2013, Auckland had a net gain of 5,300 migrants, while the other regions had a net loss of 4,600 migrants.

Figure 3

Graph, Net PLT migration for Auckland and the other regions, year ended June 1996 to 2013.

Citizenship of migrants

The citizenship of arrivals and departures are often related, as some New Zealanders who leave come back, and some immigrants later return overseas.

Auckland had a higher proportion of arrivals of non-New Zealand citizens than the other regions. From 1996 to 2013, three-quarters of migrants arriving in Auckland were non-New Zealand citizens, compared with 59 percent of migrants to other regions.

More non-New Zealand citizens departed Auckland than the other regions, although the majority of departures from each region including Auckland were New Zealand citizens. New Zealand citizens accounted for 69 percent of departures from Auckland, compared with 78 percent of departures from the other regions.

Country of last or next residence

Auckland’s migrants came from a more diverse range of countries than those migrating to the other regions in New Zealand. For the years 1996 to 2013, Asian migrants accounted for 36 percent of migrants to Auckland compared with 23 percent to the other regions. The main source countries for Asian migrants to Auckland during this period were China and India.

A higher proportion of migrants to Auckland came from the Pacific (10 percent), compared with migrants to the other regions (4 percent). Migrants from Fiji and Samoa made up the majority of Pacific migrant arrivals to Auckland in this period.

While the main source country for migrants to Auckland was the United Kingdom, a smaller proportion (17 percent) of migrant arrivals into Auckland originated there, compared with arrivals to the other regions (27 percent).

Figure 4

Graph, Distribution of permanent and long-term arrivals, by country/region of last permanent residence, year ended June 1996 to 2013.

Almost one-half of the departing migrants from Auckland (48 percent) were leaving for Australia – a slightly smaller proportion than for the other regions (54 percent). Also, a smaller proportion of migrants from Auckland departed for the United Kingdom (15 percent) than from the other regions (19 percent).

Because Auckland has more arrivals from Asia and more people born in Asia living there, a higher proportion of migrant departures from Auckland were bound for Asia (16 percent) than from the other regions (9 percent).

Figure 5

Graph, Distribution of permanent and long-term departures, by country/region of next permanent residence, year ended June 1996 to 2013.

Age and sex

The age distribution of migrants arriving in Auckland followed a similar pattern to the other regions, with most migrants arriving in New Zealand aged from their late teens to early 30s.

A higher proportion of migrants arriving in Auckland were aged 15 years and under, compared with migrants to the other regions. Auckland also had a slightly higher proportion aged in their early to mid-40s than the other regions. This may indicate that arrivals into Auckland consist of more family groups than migrants arriving to settle in the rest of New Zealand.

Figure 6

Graph, Age distribution of permanent and long-term arrivals, year ended June 1996 to 2013.

Although Auckland and the other regions followed a similar age distribution pattern for departures, a higher proportion of departures from the other regions were in their late teens and 20s than from Auckland. Meanwhile, Auckland recorded a higher proportion of departures aged less than 16 years, and in their late 20s to mid-40s.

Figure 7

Graph, Age distribution of permanent and long-term departures, year ended June 1996 to 2013.

Auckland was the only region with net gains in all five-year age groups for both sexes. In the other regions, many age groups recorded net losses, with the largest being in the 20–24-year age group for both males and females.

The five-year age group with the biggest net gain of migrants for Auckland was 15–19 years for males and 25–29 years for females. This differs from the other regions, where the biggest net migration gains occurred in the 30–34-year age group for both males and females.

Visa type

Visa type is the type of immigration visa given to a migrant when they enter New Zealand. This data is available from July 2003 and is shown in figure 8.

From 2004 to 2013, 29 percent of Auckland’s arriving migrants were New Zealand or Australian citizens. Other migrants commonly arrived on work and residence visas (both 24 percent).

In 2004, there were more arrivals to Auckland on residence visas (10,600) than any other visa type. By 2013, arrivals on residence visas had declined to 6,800, while the increase of arrivals on work visas (from 5,700 in 2004 to 10,500 in 2013) made it the most common visa type for migrants intending to settle in Auckland. The changes in residence and work visa arrival numbers were influenced by immigration policy and a shift towards gaining residence once in New Zealand rather than before arriving.

The United Kingdom was the leading source country for migrants to Auckland on both work and residence visas over the 10-year period. However, in 2013, more migrants arriving into Auckland on residence visas were from China (1,300) than from the United Kingdom (700). In contrast, more migrants on work visas were from the United Kingdom (1,900) than from China (500).

Migrants arriving in Auckland on student visas ranged from a low of 3,300 in 2005 to a high of 6,700 in 2012. The most common countries of last residence for migrants arriving in Auckland on a student visa from 2004 to 2013 were India (23 percent) and China (20 percent). This differs slightly from the other regions which had more students from China (15 percent) than from India (13 percent).

Figure 8

Graph, Permanent and long-term arrivals to Auckland, by visa type, year ended June 2004 to 2013.


The occupation groups used for international travel and migration statistics changed in October 2009, and are not easily comparable with the occupation groups used previously. This section focuses on the occupation statistics from October 2009 onwards, unless otherwise stated.

In the old groupings, the leading occupation group for arrivals into and departures from Auckland was ‘corporate managers’, whereas in the other regions, ‘personal and protective services workers’ (which include ‘housekeeping and restaurant service workers’) was the leading occupation group. 

From October 2009 to June 2013, the main occupation groups for migrants arriving in Auckland, as well as in the other regions, were ‘school teachers’ and ‘engineering professionals’. Auckland also had a high proportion of arriving ‘business and systems analysts, and programmers’, and ‘accountants, auditors and company secretaries’.

Table 1

Top occupation groups for permanent and long-term arrivals
October 2009–June 2013
Auckland  Other regions (excluding not stated)
Occupation group Number    Occupation group Number  
School teachers 3,283   School teachers 4,543  
Engineering professionals   2,482   Engineering professionals  2,772  
Sales assistants and salespersons  1,740   Food trades workers   2,219  
Business and systems analysts, and programmers  1,575   Hospitality workers  2,141  
Hospitality workers  1,571   Health and welfare support workers  2,136  
Accountants, auditors and company secretaries  1,460   Sales assistants and salespersons  2,072  
Source: Statistics New Zealand

For the period from October 2009 to June 2013, the main occupation groups for migrant departures from both Auckland and the rest of New Zealand were ‘school teachers’ and ‘sales assistants and salespersons’.

Departures of ‘insurance agents and sales representatives’, and ‘accountants, auditors and company secretaries’ were more common in Auckland, while ‘hospitality workers’ and ‘bricklayers, carpenters and joiners’ featured more in departures from the other regions.

Table 2

Top occupation groups for permanent and long-term departures
October 2009–June 2013
Auckland Other regions (excluding not stated)
Occupation group Number    Occupation group Number   
School teachers 2,661   School teachers  5,053  
Sales assistants and salespersons 2,237   Sales assistants and salespersons  3,768  
Engineering professionals 1,834   Hospitality workers  3,107  
Miscellaneous specialist managers 1,743   Engineering professionals  2,900  
Insurance agents and sales representatives 1,524   Bricklayers, carpenters and joiners  2,867  
Accountants, auditors and company secretaries 1,354   Miscellaneous specialist managers  2,744  
Source: Statistics New Zealand

Data sources

International travel and migration dataset: Year ended June 1996–2013. Wellington: Statistics New Zealand.

2006-based subnational population estimates: at 30 June 2013. Wellington: Statistics New Zealand.

2013 Census regional summary tables – parts 1 and 2. Wellington: Statistics New Zealand.

Business demography statistics: Detailed industry by region for geographic units (ANZSIC06) 2000–2013. Wellington: Statistics New Zealand.

Mean daily maximum temperatures (⁰C) and Mean daily minimum temperatures (⁰C). Auckland: NIWA.

Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand: Auckland region.  

More information

Use Infoshare

For New Zealand area time series, select the following categories from the Infoshare homepage:

Subject category: Tourism
Group: International Travel and Migration - ITM
Tables: Permanent & long-term migration by age, sex and NZ area
Permanent & long-term migration by ctry of residence, citizenship and NZ area

For more information contact:
Nicholas Thomson or Rosalia Rohwer
Christchurch 03 964 8700

For general enquiries contact our Information Centre:
Phone: 0508 525 525 (toll-free in New Zealand)
+64 4 931 4600 (outside New Zealand)

ISBN: 978-0-478-42900-8 (online)

Published 5 June 2014

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